Friday, July 29, 2011

Sony Ericsson W960i Review

In a nutshell: Sony Ericsson's flagship Walkman phone offers a wealth of features: it's a 3G Symbian SmartPhone with an excellent 3.2 megapixel camera, video recording and video calling, a Walkman music player, an FM radio, web browsing, email, Bluetooth and WLAN connectivity and 8 Gbytes of user memory.
Sony Ericsson W960i
The Sony Ericsson W960i is Sony Ericsson's flagship Walkman phone and is an upgraded version of the W950i. It's a 3G smartphone running the Symbian operating system and has a touchscreen display in addition to a normal keypad. It's a large phone and quite heavy too, yet it retains a classy elegance, and is quite a usable phone. At least the size does enable the LCD display to be large (2.6 inches). The keypad is easy to use (much better than most recent Sony Ericssons) and the touchscreen feature works well. In addition to the touchscreen menus and the numeric keypad, the phone also supports handwriting recognition using a stylus.

The W960i is a Walkman phone, so let's look at the music capabilities first. The first thing to point out is that the W960i has a fixed memory, so you can't add a memory card, but that shouldn't be a problem as the memory is a whopping 8 Gbytes. That's enough to store around 2,000 high quality MP3 tracks, and is more than most rival phones can offer even with memory cards added. The touchscreen interface is at its best when using features like the music player, as you can literally touch the album art of a song to select it. It makes the music player even easier to use than an iPod Classic. With the Walkman 3 music player you can play, rewind, fast forward, equalise, shuffle tracks and create playlists. There's a dedicated key for starting the Walkman music player. Software is supplied for transferring music from your PC and for ripping tracks off CD's. A stereo headset is supplied with the phone, and you can optionally purchase a Bluetooth headset to listen to your music wirelessly. In addition to the music player, the W960i has a built-in FM radio with RDS.

The predecessor to the W960i came without a camera, which many thought was a major omission. Sony Ericsson have fully taken this on board and the W960i has a powerful camera: 3.2 megapixels with autofocus and an LED flash. It lacks the more powerful xenon flash found on Sony Ericsson's flagship Cyber-Shot phone, the W850i, but is nevertheless one of the better camera phones on the market. The camera can also take video clips, and 3G video calling is available too.

The large screen and always-on 3G connectivity make mobile web browsing and email a reality. The Opera web browser is supplied pre-installed, and a document viewer and editor is available for working with attachments. These features combined with the touchscreen user interface make the W960i into a powerful business tool that can start to compete with the likes of Blackberry. In fact, Blackberry Connect can be installed, enabling push email and contact synchronisation. As the phone runs Symbian, there are literally thousands of applications available for download.

The W960i is a very powerful device with outstanding music capabilities and a good all-rounder in other respects. It would have been nice to see a HSDPA-enabled implementation of 3G, but the ability to connect to Wi-Fi compensates for this to some extent. It would have been nice to have quadband too. It also has a tendency (like all Symbian phones) to sometimes be a little slow and shaky, especially when running applications. Nevertheless, the W960i is in many ways outstanding, and it's only because it's so good that these issues are worth pointing out. Possible alternatives include the LG Viewty, Nokia N95 8GB, Nokia N81 and maybe even the Apple iPhone.


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